The Stranger Things star leads a fun, scrappy, and family-friendly take on the Conan Doyle legend, co-starring Henry Cavill
Given how meteoric her rise as a star was after the first season of Stranger Things back in 2016, it seemed odd that Millie Bobby Brown hadn’t fronted a movie before now. As it turns out, she was just biding her time for the right one. Though hardly a perfect film, there couldn’t be a much better project than Enola Holmes for Brown to get top billing – a cosy yet zippy franchise starter with infinite sequel potential that plays directly to her strengths.
Originating from the series of YA novels by Nancy Springer, Enola Holmes (Brown) is the precocious but sheltered younger sister of her more famous brothers, Sherlock and Mycroft, played here by Henry Cavill and Sam Claflin. She spends her days clattering around the Holmes family estate, being educated in everything from history to jujutsu by her eclectic mother (Helena Bonham Carter). Enola is very happy with her life, until one day she wakes up and her mum has vanished into thin air, leaving behind a trail of (yep) devious clues.
While it initially seems this chase will form the bulk of the story, it’s swiftly shelved in favour of a murderous conspiracy that Enola stumbles into. A young, dashing, and forward-thinking lord (Louis Partridge) has been marked for death by a mysterious assassin (Burn Gorman), and suddenly it’s up to Enola to find out why, save the lord, and just maybe fall in love with him. It’s a jolly caper of a plot with some fun twists and turns, and should easily keep the whole family entertained, even if it feels overstretched by the end – you could comfortably cut about 20 minutes off the two hour runtime.
Brown proves her movie-star mettle as Enola with great aplomb. She’s one part Sherlock, one part Fleabag – sharing exasperated, witty asides with the audience – all wrapped up in the light-hearted teen heroism of the earlier Harry Potters. It’s a performance of boundless energy and charisma, and great fun most of the time, deftly balancing the twin demands of being both an action hero (there is some surprisingly intense violence throughout) and a believable, relatable teenager.
Enola’s turns to camera can seem like a bit of an easy way out for Jack Thorne’s script to power through its exposition, but they’re handled well, and never interrupt the flow of scenes (director Harry Bradbeer is a Fleabag veteran, so is well-versed in this particular art). Some of the other stylistic flourishes, not to mention the very CG-reliant version of Olden Days London, are more distracting, but are easily enough forgotten whenever the adventure kicks back into gear.
Originally intended as a cinematic release in an era before the pandemic, Enola Holmes is one of the few films of the last few months that has probably benefited from being moved to the small screen. It’s an enjoyable, if unremarkable, family night in in front of the TV (you’d gladly watch a new one every Sunday). Given just how many versions of the Holmes stories are on screens at any given time, it’s a tough task to break through and make your particular take on the mythos worthwhile. With a scrappy heroine, a superstar central performance, and a committed progressive political outlook, Enola Holmes is a step above the elementary.
Enola Holmes is now available to stream on Netflix.Where to watch